In Lismore, it’s getting harder and harder to tolerate climate inaction – and Morrison’s cowardly silence says it all | Kate Stroud
Jhis time was going to be different; we were prepared. I felt proud of us as I saw the whole CBD of Lismore revved up, lifting things above the 12.12m record, ready to prepare for what happened there. just under five years. We all had a flood plan. We moved our cars higher. But this time, it was different: it broke all records, and it broke our city.
A friend said to me as I plugged my phone into my emergency power supply, taking refuge in the cavity in the roof of my house in South Lismore: “Don’t worry mate, the army has arrived, it shouldn’t take long.”
It was in the early hours of Monday morning, February 28. We hadn’t slept as we watched the water engulf our house. We had called 000 and the state emergency service to no avail – they were overwhelmed. We heard that the evacuation center was already full as we were trying to figure out where we would go once we got out. We had over 10 people outside trying to find us boats. We waited over six hours as the storm raged across the tin roof half a foot from my face.
We were rescued by a man, a civilian named Brad on a jetski who had come from Ballina. I caught his eye by banging on a window up to his neck in floodwater – the only safe way out. We didn’t see a single SES boat on the way out as we slipped under the power lines to safety. This week, on the ninth day, I saw my first army officer cleaning an elementary school.
The Liberal government has let us down. They can’t even face us. Wednesday was a chance for our ‘leader’ to find out what our people have been through for the past nine days – it was a chance for him to listen. Instead, Scott Morrison thinks it’s okay to throw money at an issue in the hopes it will go away, then fly off the site for his next curated media coverage. He banned the media from filming the visit, according to his office, out of respect for the victims, but conveniently it would also hide the answer he needed to know he would be welcomed in – an admission of guilt. His visit feels more like a bad case of Lundiitis than a genuine wish to help Australian taxpayers whose lives have been destroyed.
We’ve heard of SES ranks thinning due to vaccine requirements; the army staged media images that appeared on Morrison’s Instagram to show what a great job they were doing, mud-free uniforms. Civilians were chartering helicopters to get us essentials like drinking water, food and fuel.
On Wednesday, more than 200 people from Northern Rivers came forward to communicate what our community needs, to seek answers to the inadequate and fatal response. Scotty slipped through the back door of the council chamber – he didn’t face the group of passionate but peaceful protesters. Instead, he once again left us dry to “dig deep and help each other,” with a few thousand dollars and nowhere to spend them.
We don’t need the boss of the disaster relief agency blaming “people who want to live among the gum trees” for the place we choose to call home. We won’t fall in the river without first dismantling the real problem: those who profit from decisions that contribute to the reality that I and 90% of my community find ourselves in…again! I don’t know how we’re going to recover from this.
You can massage the narrative all you want, but THIS IS WHAT CLIMATE CHANGE LOOKS LIKE. This is what happens when we fail to engage in a global effort to tackle the climate crisis. This is Lismore’s second natural disaster in five years. It’s the whole coastline in devastation. It’s not “increasingly difficult to live in Australia”, it’s increasingly difficult to live with the decisions of our past generations who refused to listen to climate scientists and Aboriginal elders, who warned that this is where we were going long before I was born. . It’s getting harder and harder to swallow the awkward responses that Scotty spews out without any thought, consideration, or compassion.
We are deeply disappointed with the lack of leadership. We will not be fed this mediocre diversion of responsibility. The current government does not care about us; Morrison made that loud and clear to the Northern Rivers community on Wednesday with his cowardly silence. We are not an inconvenience. We are humans who demand inspiring and honest leadership. We demand more.